By RICKY BRADLEY | Contributing Writer

The (hot!) ballplayers from Arlington have been the playoff bridesmaids of major league sport. But 2009 has been a banner rebuilding year

PLAY BALL! | Rangers newcomer Neftali Feliz, left, goes metro with a pink Dora the Explorer backpack; Ian Kinsler, center, and Elvis Andrus celebrate a recent victory over Cleveland with some innocent hand-holding. (TONY GUTIERREZ and TONY DEJACK/AP)

Saddle up gay sports fans: It’s time to jump on the Texas Rangers bandwagon. After all, we have a responsibility to uphold our status as trendsetters — something we have lost lately, with all the size-too-small Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch shirts. In case you haven’t noticed the Texas Rangers lately, they’re hot — on the field and off.

It’s OK to be out-and-proud of this edition of the Rangers. There’s no need to use the "I’m just watching the hot guys" excuse if your friends put you down for watching pro baseball. Be secure in the knowledge that you’re cultured enough to not only know about Heidi Klum’s trademark "Auf Weidersehen" kiss-off on Project Runway, but also that C.J. Wilson throws the gyroball.

Don’t misunderstand: there’s plenty of validity to the argument the hot guys on this team are worth a gander. There’s a Ranger for everyone: You may prefer the throwback look of second baseman Ian Kinsler, the aw-shucks cuteness of Derek Holland or the pretty boy metrosexual look of C.J. Wilson; if you’re into bears or cubs, you got Tommy Hunter; Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus satisfy those who prefer men of color; and is there a hotter daddy than Michael Young? (Even Rangers skipper Ron Washington serves those who prefer a mashup of Fred Sanford and Bozo the Clown.)

The point is, no longer need you feel awkward at family gatherings when your cousins discuss whether Nolan Ryan or Mike Maddox has had a bigger impact on the Rangers’ pitching staff. You can chime in with "Oh snap, I got a jock-crush on David Murphy, cuz."

There’s never been a better time to be "the gay sports guy" at your office water cooler. Tell your colleagues the high-legged uniforms of Kinsler and Murphy make you all hot. At your next Oscar party, instead of movie trivia, discuss whether trading Mark Teixeira to the Braves for starting shortstop Elvis Andrus, starting pitcher Matt Harrison, starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and phenom Neftali Feliz was better than releasing Herschel Walker to the Vikings. Step up and show your versatility — and raise the level of discourse.

It’s all about timing. Five years from now, when the Rangers are going after their third title in five years, you can proudly exclaim, "I was a Rangers fan back when Britney was still popular." To be a Rangers fan now is chic — especially considering that Rangers G.M. Jon Daniels has locked up most of this young talent through 2014.

To be a Rangers fan now is to say "I was with them when they were the worst team in all of sports." The Rangers are the oldest franchise out of all the four major American professional sports leagues that has not played for its league’s championship — that’s a record that’s gotta break eventually. (And you thought George Bush once owning the Rangers was embarrassing.) Even the Cubs, widely regarded as the lovable losers of baseball, have two World Series titles now.

But keep in mind: the 2009–14 Rangers will be different, and to become a fan now makes you hotter than the average circuit boi. You will understand how pitching and defense separates the good teams from the mediocre ones. You will know that the Rangers long ball, offensive oriented culture is a thing of the past. They can bunt, steal bases and advance runners as well as the Angels and Yankees. You will know the young guns of Holland, Wilson, Hunter and Nippert were crucial to improving a team ERA (that’s earned run average, guys) that allowed one full run less per game this year than in 2008.

Finally, you will be in awe of a 21-year-old flame-throwing right-handed rookie named Neftali Feliz who mixes a 100 m.p.h. fastball with a curve ball clocked as low as 78. His delivery seems effortless and major league insiders are calling Feliz "baseball’s next big thing."

Yes, this is an exciting time to become a Rangers fan. As our boys open up a three game home series against division-leading California this weekend, they still have a chance to make the playoffs. Baseball people pointed to the 2010 season as the year the Rangers would turn it around; 2009 is a bonus.

Enjoy the rest of the season, Rangers fans — you (and they) have earned it.

Ricky Bradley, who goes by the name "TheSportsFag," writes the blog

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.цена аудита сайта